How to Host A Dinner Party

Contributed By Shawn Schindler, of Your Special Day Weddings and Special Events

Imagine the expressions on the faces of your friends and family as they enter your home and take in the surroundings that you have created especially for them. Your creation may be an elegant holiday dining affair or an eccentric coffeehouse-styled leisurely evening. You may be thinking, “I can’t pull something off like that!” With my tips, you will be able to create a memorable occasion.

Let’s start with eliminating the thought that entertaining in your home is going to require gross amounts of money, an abundance of decorations and countless hours. If you follow these helpful hints that I have gathered in my many years as an event planner, you will learn the ropes of home entertaining.

Be a Good Host
The first and foremost element to discuss is you, the host or hostess. You need to be able to enjoy your own event. You could be the executive producer of your production or the author of your own confusion. One key rule of thumb here is a stressed host or hostess will leave a lasting impression, and not the kind you are trying to make! Even a novice can be the executive by being organized, detailed and exact in executing the perfect production, no matter how small and intimate or grand and lavish.

Pick a Theme & Budget
To begin, you need to establish a theme, not in terms of a 40th birthday party or Super Bowl party, which are both fun atmospheres, but in establishing your style, color palette, food and drinks to serve and what budget you want to work with to complete your event. Everyone has a budget, regardless if it is $200 or $2,000. Remember, overspending will not impress your guests!

Set a Date & Invite
After you determine your theme, set a date in advance, allowing your invitations to arrive to your guests by mail … yes, the kind with a stamp! As is it convenient to send an Evite, an invitation received in the mail will set the personalized tone for your gathering and show that you have a sense of social etiquette that many have forgotten.

Decide Your Menu
The next and potentially most important element of your actual production is the food and drinks. This can be accomplished with your own talents or those of a professional chef, which is a huge trend right now. A personal and professional chef can simply deliver the food or prepare it on-site, serve it in your dishes and clean up while you enjoy your guests. If you have a few special dishes but need a more balanced menu, improvise and call a caterer for your needs or go to your local gourmet grocery store.

Choose Your Spirits
Now that you have your food taken care of, let’s think drinks. I highly recommend hiring a professional bartender if you are serving a variety of alcoholic beverages. Not only do professional bartenders serve your guests, but they have knowledge of a large array of beverage recipes. For the small investment of $25–$50 per hour, you are releasing yourself of some of the hosting responsibilities, allowing you to further enjoy your guests.

Set a Time Line
As a professional event planner, I cannot stress enough the importance of preparing a time line for the days leading up to your party as well as the day of. You need to make sure you schedule time for shopping, cleaning, food preparation, and don’t forget to allow a few minutes for relaxation prior to greeting your first guest. Remember what we discussed earlier: A stressed host or hostess will leave a lasting impression, and not the kind you are trying to make!

Conjure Up Your Decor
Theme, food, drinks, time lines — now the décor! This element is going to completely depend on your theme. Let your creativity kick in and showcase your style. Place your decorations as accents to your evening not to steal the show. Instead, let your moments with your guests create memories that make the show. If you need help with decor, there are plenty of professional decorators and florists who can help.

Go to Plan B
Lastly, if you still feel overwhelmed and you just want to test your hosting skills, consider having your event at a restaurant. There are many excellent places in our area that offer private dining facilities. You can add your personal touch with linens, florals and print stationery.

If you would love to create this special moment for your family and friends but don’t think you are up to the challenge, special event planners can design and execute your party on your behalf, and no one has to know. A planner can take you from start to finish or can even provide you with hourly consultations to get you moving in the right direction and build your confidence. Special event planners have the resources you need at their fingertips, which will save you time and money, bringing vendors that will reflect your particular style.

Shawn Schindler is owner of Your Special Day Weddings and Special Events in Raleigh. For more information, call (919) 662-7816 or visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *